Head Games

Your prospects' own thoughts are potent headline material.

What does the average person worry about when he or she peers into the bathroom mirror each morning? Something work-related? A family issue? Those telltale signs of aging? If you knew that concern du jour and you've got a product or service that addresses it, echo it back to get your prospects' attention.

For Bill Blacker of Bensalem, Pennsylvania, who runs a geriatric-care firm, this approach would suggest an ad headline that reads, "What should I do about Mom?" Compare the immediacy and impact of that set of words to the current offering, and you see how much more attention it might receive.

This echo approach has applications for many products and services. "I need to sleep better!" could lead off a mattress store ad. "How can I lose 10 lbs. fast?" could be a come-on for a gym. "I'm tired of high (fill in the blank) prices" will work for almost any discounter. You get the idea.

Naturally, you need an effective transition into the rest of the ad to play off the headline and keep the reader interested. In the case of Blacker's ad, the bridge would be, "It's a question children of the elderly are asking often these days as they face the challenges of caring for their parents in their later years. Senior Care Planning Services Inc. can help." Echoing the concerns of your prospects in a headline is effective because it addresses their favorite subject: themselves!

Before:

This ad tries hard to do the right thing, but ends up too much of a mishmosh

1. The headline has the right message, but is too long for the space and thus has little visual impact.

2. The image is a converted photo that became too muddy. There's actually someone sick in bed, but she's hard to see.




After:

This new ad addresses the issue with the impact necessary to catch the eye of the prime audience.

1. A succinct, first-person headline echoes the concern of most children for elderly and ill parents.

2. Readers "get" this ad in an eyeblink, which is critical for a small ad vying for attention.






Jerry Fisher is a freelance advertising copywriter in the San Francisco Bay Area and author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising(available through Bookmasters, 800-247-6553). If you'd like Jerry to consider your materials for a makeover in this column, write to him c/o Entrepreneur or email him at jerry228@aol.com.

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This article was originally published in the February 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Head Games.

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